If you've ever passed another driver on a backroad in Montana, you've most likely received a friendly wave from the driver headed in the opposite direction.


If you live in Montana, waving at other drivers is a sign of common courtesy. It's like an unwritten requirement. When you wave at another driver, it's a way of communicating without actually speaking. However, the message is heard loud and clear.

It's a way of saying "Howdy. Safe travels, my friend."

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Eric Heidle from the Montana Arts Council put together a list of the different types of waves that you'll see in Montana. With so many new people that have moved to Montana recently, we figured we would try to get the word out about the importance of waving while on the road. Check out illustrations of the different types of waves below.

Montana Arts Council
Montana Arts Council

For the record, the middle-finger salute is used frequently in Montana, but it is not classified as a type of wave.

Photo by Luis Quintero on Unsplash
Photo by Luis Quintero on Unsplash

According to Eric, there are 9 different types of waves you'll see in Montana.

    1. The Classic: This is the most common type of wave in Montana. You just raise your index finger and your middle finger from the top of the steering wheel. It's sort of like a two-finger salute. It says you're friendly, but not too friendly.
    2. The Palm: The Palm is similar to The Classic, except you raise all four fingers instead of two.
    3. The Nod: This isn't really a wave, but it was included on the list. It's when you make eye contact and nod your head without speaking. Generally, the head nod is in an upward motion.
    4. The Salute: This type of wave requires you to remove your entire hand from the steering wheel. You can use your other hand as a backup. It's described as your typical full-hand wave.
    5. The Heisman: This type of wave is primarily used while driving within city limits. It's often used on pedestrians. Most of the time, the Heisman is used when you're waving out the passenger window from the driver's seat.
    6. The Six Guns: This type of wave requires both hands on top of the steering wheel. You just make pistols with your fingers, but it isn't meant to be threatening.
    7. The Claw: This is one of the rarer types of waves in Montana. It's sort of like a partial wave. It's when you lift your hand from the steering wheel, but you don't extend your fingers. It looks kind of like a claw.
    8. The Check-Off: This wave is a lot like The Classic. Here's an example. If you're sitting at a stop sign, the Check-Off can be used to let another driver know that they can proceed.
    9. The Cowpoke: This wave is very unique in Montana. It's when you roll down the driver's window and stick your arm out and twirl it in a circular motion like a lasso. It is usually paired with words like "yeehaw" and other redneck sayings.

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